The NL East had every type of team. The great (Phillies), the pretty good (Marlins and Braves) and the god awful (Mets and Nationals). This year will probably be more of the same. The Mets and Nationals might be a tad better than last year, but not worth paying attention to if you have playoff hopes.
You wont find a more perfect lineup in all of baseball. You want speed; they got it. You want power; they got it. Normally, National League teams favor small ball with less power than AL teams, but not these guys.
The heart of the lineup- Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth- gives pitchers across baseball the chills to just think about. Then you put Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino behind those guys? Have fun keeping this team from scoring 10 runs a game.
The 1-4 spots in the rotation are very solid, if not dominant. Trading Cliff Lee would normally kill a staff, but not when it comes with adding Roy Halladay. In addition to him, I expect to see the 2008 version of Cole Hamels. You know, the one that batters were scared of being embarrassed by. Joe Blanton is solid, and JA Happ is a name you need to know because he is a future star and could be the x-factor to winning the World Series.
Just like Hamels, I see Brad Lidge returning to all star form. He is just good not to. While the Phil’s did lose some depth in the bullpen, JC Romero is a solid setup man, and the addition of Danys Baez should be a great boost.
Just as if we were talking about the Braves of the 90’s, the strength here is pitching. Tim Hudson will be the guy at the top of the rotation, but that spot could also be taken by Derek Lowe or Jair Jurrjens. Also, don’t forget about Tommy Hanson, who was stellar in his rookie year.
Yea, they lost Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano from the bullpen, but if Billy Wagner is healthy, having him is actually an upgrade.
As for the Braves lineup, many think that it is weak, but I disagree. While it doesn’t compare to that of the Phillies, they have potential to be a good lineup. The one problem I see is a lack of power. A 3-4-5 of Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus, and Brian McCann is not going to get the job done.
If Atlanta is going to fight for a playoff spot, the x-factor is going to have to be new acquisition Melky Cabrera. Now, projected lineups have him batting eighth, but there is no way that’s where he is after a month. I was very impressed with Cabrera last year on the Yankees and I believe the Braves just got a future all star. By May, expect him to be in at least the five spot and driving in everyone on base.
Every year, you look at the roster of this team and contemplate whether they are actually a AAA ballclub. Despite this, they are always way better than everyone expectsThe one player that isn’t a no-name here is Hanley Ramirez, the best shortstop in baseball. He has power, speed, great range, and has great overall hitting skills. He is the perfect player to build around.
The rotation is a little suspect. Behind ace Josh Johnson, I have no idea where the Marlins get their wins. They will get a big boost if Ricky Nolasco can return to his 2008 numbers, but that is a big “if.”
New York Mets:
There was literally not one thing from last year that you could look at positively. An anemic offense, mediocre pitching and as many injuries as wins led to a surprisingly dreadful 2009 season.
For as bad as the offense was last year, it is actually a fairly potent offense when healthy. Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran are all-stars and we have seen them wreak havoc. Unfortunately, the injury bug isn’t even waiting for opening day to hit. Beltran will be out for a while and Reyes is battling injury and will probably miss the first week or two.
Because of the absence of power, the Mets big acquisition this offseason was getting former Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. Personally, I think they overpaid for him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a great player. While he doesn’t have the build or pure power that will scare pitchers, he is a great hitter with enough power to clear the fence even in spacious Citi Field.
The pitching staff will be decent, but nothing stellar. This doesn’t bode well for a team that scored so few runs last year. Johan Santana is solid-though not what he once was-and Mike Pelfrey and John Maine are nothing more than adequate.
The key in the rotation is Oliver Perez. Perez was arguably the worst starter in baseball last year. The Mets were so high on him, but shut him down after getting shelled with a 6.92 ERA in 14 starts. The Metropolitans haven’t given up on him just yet though. If he can become anything like what we thought he would be, that is a giant boost.
Everyone is saying that this team is close to being competitive. Even if that is true, that doesn’t help this year.
The Nats defense is the worst in baseball by far. Josh Willingham is almost as bad as Alfonso Soriano in the outfield, and Pudge Rodriguez is so old that he has been in the MLB almost as long as some of the players have been alive.
Hitting won’t be a problem because they have a pretty balanced lineup. Nyjer Morgan is a great leadoff guy and with Adam Kennedy behind him, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn will have people to drive in instead of every home run being a solo shot.
As of right now, the rotation is comically bad. John Lannan and Jason Marquis are decent, but the fact that those two guys are leading your staff says something.
It won’t be until midseason that you could see the Nats win as much as they lose. When Stephen Strasburg gets called up and Chien-Ming Wang comes back, you could see drastic improvement and the future anchors of a rotation.